Obituary Scams: A Way to Say Goodbye or Commit Fraud?

Obituary Scams: A Way to Say Goodbye or Commit Fraud?

Our loved ones lived full lives before their passing, and we want to share that life, whether it was their parents’ names, where they worked for 40 years or their beloved pet. While obituaries are a way to send off our loved ones and inform our communities of a loss, criminals also use the information in these articles to commit fraud.

Alberta Provincial Crime Watch Association and our crime prevention partners want to help you give your friends and family a proper send-off that will also keep their information and you safe from scammers. 


What Are Obituary Scams?

Obituary scams involve exploiting details from obituaries to target grieving families or friends. Scammers typically take facts from public obituaries, such as the names and relationships of the deceased and birthdates, and then form their scam. Scammers may contact individuals through email, phone calls, or even in person, claiming to have a connection to the deceased and fabricating urgent situations that require financial assistance. This is a growing concern, especially with obituaries moving online. It’s no longer the criminal down the street that you have to worry about seeing an obituary in the local newspaper; scam artists worldwide have access to this information online.

These scams can also include fake charity requests, false debt collection, or phishing attempts. 

It's important to exercise caution and verify any unexpected requests or communications, especially during vulnerable times such as mourning a loss.

Criminals can also commit fraud by using the deceased information. If they can find personal details about the deceased, they can use the information to commit identity fraud, such as opening credit cards, renting vehicles or residences, or opening telephone accounts.

Gathering Information from Obituaries

To find a target, scammers crawl obituaries listed in local newspapers, funeral homes, and other online platforms. Information from obituaries can be used to create accounts and answer security questions. While we want to share everything that made our loved ones great, you could put your family and friends in a serious situation.  

Here is a list of information that scammers can use that is commonly found in obituaries.

  • Full legal name
  • Nickname
  • Birthdate and death date
  • Birthplace
  • Place of residence at death
  • Name of significant other
  • Full names of parents and siblings
  • Date and time of funeral services
  • Names of pallbearers
  • Name of funeral home and cemetery
  • Childhood & Education 
  • Children & Grandchildren 
  • Employment 
  • Extra-curricular activities 
  • Retirement 
  • Home life 
  • Special pets

Prevention and Protection

When writing an obituary, you should exercise caution and avoid providing unnecessary personal details. Don’t include the both deceased’s day and month of birth, employment history, or home address. You should also be careful about including the information mentioned above. Scammers can use this information to impersonate the deceased and commit fraud. This way, you can significantly reduce the risk of falling victim to obituary scams.

Reporting Suspicious Activity

In the digital age, you must be vigilant and report any suspicious activity related to your loved ones. If you come across a potentially fraudulent obituary or notice unauthorized use of personal information, report it to local law enforcement or online platforms hosting the obituary. Timely reporting can help authorities act quickly to investigate and prevent further damage.

Additional Measures for Executors

If you are acting as an executor for an estate, take these extra steps to secure the deceased's information:

  • Alert credit bureaus to place a flag on the deceased’s profile as soon as possible.

  • Alert the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) and Service Canada so they can place a flag on the deceased’s social insurance number and CRA account. 

  • Inform the deceased’s financial institutions and the utility providers, including cell phone providers. 

  • Monitor their bank and utility account activity until they are closed.


While we try to honour and remember our loved ones, we share their lives through obituaries, which have evolved from local newspapers to digital platforms. However, criminals exploit the personal details we willingly provide in these tributes, putting us at risk of fraud.

The Alberta Provincial Crime Watch Association and our crime prevention partners want to ensure that your friends and family are not targeted by scammers. Obituary scams have become a global concern as criminals gather information from online obituaries to impersonate family members or steal the identity of the deceased to open accounts or steal money.

Together, we can help these tributes remain sincere and the memories of our loved ones are honoured without having to worry about fraud.


March 14, 2024